In Part I of this series, I described the mind- and body-shattering symptoms of Crohn’s disease, a crippling autoimmune disorder of the digestive tract that also causes systemic effects like joint pain, skin eruptions and fevers. In Part II, I described the horror of Crohn’s treatment which apparently one has to actually experience in order to understand or empathize with. In my experience, which I have seen mirrored in many online support groups for Crohn’s patients, the accepted treatments for Crohn’s are often brutal and offer minimal or no relief. Furthermore, with its toxic Big Pharma poisons, invasive tests and risky surgeries, Crohn’s treatment often causes “side-effects” — including medical trauma — that are as bad as or worse than the disease itself. In both parts, I hope to show how desperate and hopeless a situation I was really in as a seriously chronically ill person who was not responding to conventional treatment. From there, I will let the reader surmise what would have been an appropriate response from friends and family and hope that they are able to provide that considered, appropriate response if one of their own friends or family members fall ill, and to understand that they themselves are unlikely to receive the same considered response under the same conditions and to be prepared. Being let down by the very people who are supposed to be there for you is a devastating blow.
In this Part III, I will describe how I made my escape from the patriarchal capitalistic medical industry that was literally killing me. By poisoning me through toxic Big Pharma medications that didn’t work anyway, or not for long; creating additional medical trauma through invasive tests and painful side effects; and through the benign or willful neglect of an industry that frankly had no idea how to effectively treat my disease and was not legally allowed to prescribe or recommend cannabis despite its known efficacy in treating Crohn’s, my health and well-being were declining at a frightening pace even though I was a compliant patient and was supposedly doing everything right. After 2 years of suffering with only more suffering to look forward to, and no relief in sight, I packed one suitcase and made a reservation at a vacation rental property in a cannabis-friendly state where I had planned to stay for 2 months and heal myself with medical cannabis. 3 years later, I am still here and facing a terrifying and uncertain future as a seriously chronically ill cannabis refugee.
As sick as I was, once I realized what was happening to me and that my health, well-being and my entire future was at stake, I started researching how to get certified as a medical cannabis patient in various cannabis-friendly states. I was in absolute agony and I needed relief as soon as possible before I literally lost my mind from the pain. Through my research I discovered that it can be a long process in some states and that you might be denied initially, or never approved at all, although Crohn’s disease is so serious and so unresponsive to conventional treatment that it was on the list of accepted medical conditions for cannabis certification in every state at which I looked. I was both unwilling and frankly unable to travel to another state only to have my attempts at treatment thwarted so I chose a state which had also legalized recreational cannabis in case I had trouble getting product through medical channels. The process for acquiring medical product in the state I chose was also very straightforward and patient-friendly as it only required that I submit my application — without having to wait for approval — before I could legally purchase medical product. That meant that I only need make an appointment to see a doctor certified to recommend medical cannabis and to secure a legal residence in the state and I could submit my paperwork and be treating the same day I arrived if I played my cards right. In the end, due to an entire day spent traveling to a rural area a thousand miles away, it was the second day of my stay in my new home state in which I secured my doctor’s consultation, completed my paperwork including evidence of residency, sent it off in the mail, and started treating with medical cannabis.
As it turned out, my entire household had fallen ill with the flu — it was probably the second-worst flu of my life in fact where I was puking my guts out and felt like I had been hit by a truck — 2 days before my planned trip so I wasn’t able to eat much; this may have been what enabled me to physically and mentally make the trip because I actually felt better when I didn’t eat. Imagine having the flu and actually feeling better than you normally did on a regular day! That’s how unbelievably sick I was and how desperate I was for relief. In my sorry state, I was running my final errands including trying to convince my former treating doctors to release my medical records to me in case I needed them for my cannabis certification in my new home state. Now, it should be known that doctors and lawyers are essentially natural enemies who have reason not to trust each other, and my doctors’ office was reluctant to release my records, perhaps feeling vulnerable to a lawsuit or other action for having failed me so badly and then firing me after I was accepted for Medicaid. I wrote more about that here. This “Cover Your Ass” game that professionals including doctors play is just more bureaucratic bullshit that’s part of the patriarchal capitalist medical machine that places heavy and unreasonable burdens on seriously ill people and prevents them from accessing the services and care they need and frankly deserve. In the end, they only released the results of my objective tests including findings from and radiologists’ interpretations of CAT scan, capsule endoscopy, colonoscopy and bloodwork. As it turned out, although I had those records with me, no one ever asked to see them. If they had, I have no idea if they would have been sufficient without any doctors’ notes, examination findings or even a doctors’ diagnosis, but luckily it didn’t matter. My medical recommendation was granted quickly and easily. I submitted my application and purchased product legally on the day after my arrival and began treating with medical cannabis.
As I still had a miserable flu and could barely breathe, I started out with edibles and eschewed smoking or vaping initially. I purchased a top-of-the-line vegetable juicer and 2 pounds of cut fresh marijuana leaves which made about 8 ounces of gorgeous, rich-looking deep green juice which seemed to do nothing except give me terrible diarrhea. I had hoped that the cannabis juice would be all I needed to treat myself but sadly, it did not seem to be healing me at all. I did not and do not enjoy the psychoactive “high” of marijuana and I did not want to spend my days stoned so in addition to the non-psychoactive fresh juice I added in non-psychoactive CBD oil-infused edibles next. Perhaps I was just too sick, or my illness was just too serious, but I was getting no noticeable relief from either product. I kept using both the CBD edibles and the fresh juice as dietary supplements and moved onto psychoactive THC products. I started taking a small amount (about 20 milligrams) of an indica-type edible before bed. 20 milligrams is twice the amount of a standard recreational dose and didn’t touch my pain at all, but it helped me sleep which gave me great relief. I hadn’t slept well if at all in about 2.5 years by then so it was welcome indeed.
As I neared my self-imposed 2 month deadline, I realized sadly that I wasn’t healed at all and in no condition to travel so I stayed on and started experimenting with various THC-infused products as well as smoking and vaping. Smoking whole flower (bud) medical cannabis is finally what reached my joint and body pain and the shallowest of my deep gut pain, and when vaping concentrated products like resin, wax and shatter the relief went even deeper. The deepest of the deep gut pain including burning, pulling, itching, pulsing, bloating, stabbing and spasmodic sensations melted away. Although obviously I was still very ill and had not healed, I had finally, finally found relief for my overwhelming pain and that was good enough for me. Because I had no idea if my medical certification would be approved, and I couldn’t know what my future held and how long I would have access to legal cannabis, I stocked up with the products that I knew worked to make absolutely sure I didn’t run out. And struggling with the loneliness, isolation and other negative emotions related to my cross-country move, the ambivalence and cruelty of friends and family, as well as my longstanding illness and chronic pain, I adopted 2 beautiful cats from the local animal shelter, a young mother and her 8-week old kitten. Armed with an all-natural, organic arsenal of medical cannabis products and my own steely resolve, and with the welcome addition of my 2 new feline companions, I settled in for what was turning out to be a long haul of healing my body and mind from the ravages of Crohn’s disease.
This concludes Part III of this series, in which I hope to shed light on the serious and debilitating symptoms of Crohn’s disease and why it is not “just” a tummy ache, although tummy aches are bad enough aren’t they? Everything we need to live is in our “tummies” which this fast- and junk-food obsessed, yet poop- and fart-phobic culture downplays constantly as it is. If your tummy isn’t happy, you will not be happy, and when it goes on for a long time this is the very definition of serious, chronic illness.
In Part IV I will describe the fallout of my decision to leave my partner, my home, my state, my profession, and the Western medical industry behind. Friends and family members: take heed if you wish to be a positive force in a Crohn’s patient’s life instead of a nagging, dismissive asshole wholly ignorant of what Crohn’s treatment entails and how debilitating it is, and how the human body works and what it needs to survive, much less thrive. If it sounds like I’m a bit angry, it’s only because I am.